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French grammar - It is, that is, they are - c'est and ce sont

It is, that is, they are - c'est & ce sont

The word ce means 'that' or 'it'. It can refer to anything - animals, objects or concepts. And can be both singular and plural.

-- In short, ce is a very general, very useful and very common word in French. There is no exact English equivalent.

Combined with the verb être ('to be') we have the very common phrase c'est - 'it is' or 'that is'.

The est is the il or elle conjugation of the verb être ('to be').

And we have the contraction ce+est c'est.

-- In French, when we have a word ending in a vowel and another starting with a vowel side-by-side, to avoid having two vowel sounds together, we often drop first vowel and replace it with an apostrophe and join the words together. So ce+est c'est.

The plural form of c'est is ce sont ('these are' or those are') which uses the ils or elles conjugation of être.

-- However, you will commonly hear people say c'est even in situations where the plural ce sont should be used.

The inverted question form of c'est is est-ce ?.

-- And while the plural question form sont-ce ? is grammatically correct, it is never used.

Examples:
C'est loin d'ici.
It is far from here.

d'ici means 'from here'

Non, c'est près d'ici.
No, it is close by.

près means 'close'

près d'ici means 'close by' or 'close from here'

C'est qui ?
Who is it?

qui means 'who'

Qui est-ce ?
Who is it?

Inverted question form: c'est est-ce ? - 'is it?'

C'est Juliette.
It is Juliette.
Est-ce Jacques ?
Is it (that) Jacques?
Oui, c'est Jacques.
Yes, it's Jack.

oui means 'yes'

Où est-ce ?
Where is it?
C'est là-bas.
It is over there.
C'est ici.
It is here.
C'est magnifique !
It is magnificent!

magnifique (adj) means 'magnificent' or 'wonderful'

Ce sont Jacques et Juliette.
They are Jacques and Juliette.

et means 'and'

Ce sont monsieur et madame Dupont.
This is Mr and Mrs Dupont.

monsieur and madame are not capitalized if not directly addressing the person